Application to remove legal effects of consecration from part of the cemetery 2023-2024

Useful clarifications and information

To address some  misunderstandings, confusion and mistakes which have emerged since the recent consultation process in which so many people took part, several members have asked the Committee to use the Website to include a clarification of some of those misunderstandings, which it is suggested would be helpful to all our readership


  1. The Friends Website calderstones-cemetery.org.uk is accessible to everybody and contains all our information and records, which we try to ensure are always honest, accurate and respectfully recorded. We can and do make mistakes, but any readers who spot errors in the information or records are invited to contact the Friends with their suggested corrections. We have made three such corrections in the last four years.
  2. The Friends are seeking to retain the consecrated status for the whole three- acre Cemetery, as it was first established in 1916, including the one-acre portion known as the military section. We believe that it is important for everybody, the families and friends, the local community, the established Church, the Council and the owners of RPC Ltd to promote respect and equal treatment towards the deceased, avoiding any suggestion of discrimination between the deserving 33 military personnel and the much greater number of the seemingly less deserving other people.
  3. Prior to January 11th 2018, and our revelation to her that the Cemetery was a consecrated site, the Friends had a co-operative and productive relationship with Angela Dunn, in fact Angela, was an acknowledged joint author of part of our earliest records of burials in the Cemetery. Unfortunately, that relationship was abruptly and unilaterally ended by Angela's then Director who instructed her to have no further contact with the Friends. We have never been told who that Director was or the reason for his decision, but we believe that it had not been Angela's choice to terminate the contact and research activities, which we shared at that time.
  4. The recent information provided by RPC to the Assistant Archdeacon and Archdeacon appears to have been collected and collated, solely by RPC. Despite the considerable amount of time that was involved and our repeated requests for copies, there has been no contact or involvement with the Friends, in the preparation of RPC's information, although some of the detail appears to have been copied from our records.
  5. The Archdeacon apparently made his application for partial de-consecration of the Cemetery in September 2023, which we believe was based on the information which RPC had provided, but we are unable to explain why we were not given access to this seemingly important and substantial amount of material until February 8th 2024, which was after the deadline which the Bishop had given in his Christmas Eve notification of the Archdeacon's September application.
  6.  The RPC information has presumably been provided to the Assistant Archdeacon and the Archdeacon with the express intention of demonstrating that RPC have identified each of the relevant Calderstones deaths and know the location of all the graves in the Cemetery. We believe that this claim is evidently wrong, and based on the part of the information we have studied so far, would have expected it to have been quickly evident to anybody who had read the substantial tome.
  7. Rather than support the claims which RPC are making, and the conclusions it seems to have reached, we believe that on the contrary, this information gives even more additional details to support the very strong evidence which the Friends have already provided in the two most recent submissions to Bishop Philip, and in the earlier submission made to Bishop Julian in March 2019
  8. Had the Friends been invited to contribute to the collection of information, or even the summary of those details when it was completed in August 2023, then we believe that the information would have been substantially corrected, with misunderstandings addressed, superfluous, confusing and irrelevant information removed and with certainties and uncertainties honestly acknowledged, rather than ignored.
  9. It is important to correct what appears to be a repeated misunderstanding that the Friends are somehow specifically opposed to crematoria. For the avoidance of doubt, in maintaining our support for the retention of the consecrated status across the whole cemetery, the Friends would be opposed to the removal of that consecrated status to permit the construction of any buildings, be they housing, a McDonald's franchise, garage or convenience store etc.
  10. Five years ago, the Friends produced a series of nine questions for the Owners which became known as "The nine- points Document" seeking clarification on some basic facts about their early involvement with the Cemetery. The questions are very simple and easy to understand but if answered, they would resolve so many current uncertainties, yet we have been consistently refused answers. The questions were addressed to people who at that time had directorships or employment with BORI Ltd. It would appear, that two of the same people now have a directorship or employment with RPC. A clear and detailed answer to those nine questions, although five years late, would resolve many uncertainties and help everybody, by providing a coherent understanding of the cemetery's recent history and potential future. Some members have rightly questioned, why the Owners have failed to provide any response to these simple points?
  11. We will address ownership with the different companies and directors who have been involved with the Cemetery later, but the current registered owners of Remembrance Parks Construction Ltd (RPC) are Mr N J Gerard and Mrs S A Gerard. We have tried on numerous occasions since 2018 to arrange a face to face meeting with Mr Gerard, at his convenience where we might discuss the current neglect, and future of the Cemetery, but have never received a reply. Now might be an opportune time to make that request again, openly and publicly via the Website. We have therefore again written to Mr Gerard, and on this occasion, also to Mrs Gerard, respectfully requesting a face to face meeting at a time and location of their choosing, to discuss the potential options for the Cemetery's future.
  12. The Friends are concerned at the confusion and seemingly casual acceptance that RPC have full planning permission for the development of a crematorium, based on plans which were altered before approval in March 2019, and according to Bishop Julian's summary, which subsequently might need further changes. Any reading of the 2019 planning approval would clearly show that the planning permission is CONDITIONAL on the owners having the necessary licences and approvals from other authorities, over which, the Ribble Valley Borough Council has no authority. It could be misleading to talk of the planning permission without explaining the conditionality of that permission
  13. In considering the potential future use of the Cemetery, the current owners, RPC Ltd, would like to see a partial removal of the consecrated status to give them the necessary ecclesiastic permission to proceed with their construction plans. However, the Friends believe that the consecrated status of the whole three-acre Cemetery, including the military section should be sacrosanct and remain so unless there was demonstrably no need for the continuance of that status. It might be said by some that RPC are proposing to have the cart before the horse, or more accurately, that the ends are being used to excuse, obfuscate and justify the means. 
  14. In their submission to the Bishop, the Friends have clearly demonstrated their preference and support for the Cemetery returning to public ownership, management and maintenance, similar to that which it enjoyed for the 84 years prior to 2000, and as we believe was clearly intended at that time, and was confirmed in the letter to Nigel Evans MP from Stephen Hammond, the then Minister for State in the Department of Health in 2019.
  15. In 2000, the Cemetery was sold as a consecrated site containing the remains of what were approximately 1200 former patients and staff of the Hospital. The price asked for and received, reflect the fact that the consecrated status and presence of so many bodies, severely restricted the potential uses of the land to the continuance of a cemetery as has happened, with the nearby Brockhall Hospital Cemetery, apparently mistakenly sold on the same day.
  16. At that first sale to a Mr Walsh in October 2000, and in each of the many subsequent purchases and transfers since, the potential purchaser or their legal representative has been responsible for due diligence, checking the suitability, limitation and restrictions which might apply to the purchase they are making. Like any other purchase, "caveat emptor" applied to the decisions of RPC Ltd, BORI Ltd, and BOR Ltd. Anybody purchasing a house or business would be responsible for making the necessary legal checks on a potential purchase, that's why everyday people engage a solicitor to complete those essential checks on their behalf. So, we must assume that the directors of these companies either already knew that the Cemetery was a consecrated site, or failed in their responsibilities for due diligence, but the consequences of that failure must rest with them.
  17. The potential commercial viability and the current lack of any revenue from the Cemetery are frequently used by representatives of RPC Ltd to support their proposals for future development. However, RPC Ltd and presumably its predecessor BORI Ltd were fully aware that there was clear evidence that previous owners had been unable to operate the Cemetery as a financially profitable private cemetery when they purchased or transferred the site, and took professional advice on the market valuation of a consecrated cemetery. It is not the responsibility of the Friends to suggest an alternative use providing a profitable return for RPC Ltd on the transfer/purchase it made, in full knowledge of the consecrated status of the Cemetery very shortly after Bishop Julian had upheld that status in his decision of June 2019. The Friends would prefer the Cemetery to revert to public ownership and be maintained with the same standards of respect and maintenance as you would find at Clitheroe Cemetery.
  18. In attempts to defend its own interests, it is perhaps inevitable that representatives of RPC Ltd have consistently ignored or questioned the evidence which the Friends have provided in four separate submissions to the Diocese, in the past five years. Instead, our evidence is wholly or selectively ignored as are requests for responses to requests for face to face meetings with the Owners, honest and full answers to the Nine points Document, and clarity about what happened and who was responsible for the construction of a roadway within the Cemetery, without faculty, and seemingly contrary to the Owners' wishes.
  19. Section 5, of the Cremation Act 1902, clearly indicates the consents which would be required before any construction of a crematorium could take place. These necessary consents are referred to by RVBC in the conditional planning approval which was granted in March 2019. Put simply, as far as we are aware any neighbour living within 200 years of the proposed crematorium would have to give prior CONSENT to the development. The Diocese and RVBC are aware of this situation and we believe neighbours have already notified the Diocese and the Council, that they will not consent. However, we understand that writing on behalf of RPC Ltd, Mr R Dunn, contested the neighbours' rights in this matter, but did not indicate the source of the legal advice on which he had formed his opinion.
  20. The continuing and intentional neglect of the Cemetery remains a concern for many people, particularly the families and friends of the deceased. We have encouraged as many people as possible to see the graves and the neglected site, preferably by visiting the Cemetery or seeing the videos and photos which are available on different websites, and media outlets. It is claimed that the Owners', who apparently may have substantial commercial interests elsewhere are unable to afford any maintenance unless it is tied to permission to develop a crematorium. That may be the case, but visitors are likely be left with a lasting impression of abandonment and disappointment, and perhaps their trust and hopes for the future will be influenced more by what they see, than what they are told.
  21. During the preparation of their 2019 request for de-consecration, the then owners of the Cemetery, BORI Ltd, wanted to emphasise what was claimed to be evidence from a GPR Survey. However, when the Friends asked for an independent expert to review the evidence with the author of the survey, that contact was refused, which obviously impacted on the claims which were being made at that time. The Friends were surprised to read of recent references to this survey without mention of the access which had apparently been withheld five years earlier.
  22. Since Bishop Julian's decision in 2019, the Friends have been actively checking on all planning applications on the RVBC website which might relate to the Cemetery. Readers will recall that in his summary of 2019 Bishop Julian had asked if plans had been made to replace the roadway which had recently been constructed over the Garden of Remembrance. The implication being that an alternative route for the roadway would be necessary. The March 2019 planning permission, like the confidential discussions which we believe took place at that time between council and diocesan representatives, predate the Bishop's consultation and decision of 2019. As far as we are aware, no further formal application to re-route the roadway or other construction proposals have been made during the past five years.
  23. Members have questioned what appear to be copies of the official Calderstones Burial registers which have recently been posted on social media. We recognise the exceptional assistance which representatives of the Friends and the then owners of the Cemetery, BORI Ltd were generously given by the NHS in 2018 to access details of those registers, with the conditions and responsibilities which applied to that access. It is regrettable, that confidential documents which may be subject to Data Protection controls have been published in this manner, and we will be writing to the Directors of RPC Ltd, asking them to check the details and consider removing copies from the social media site. 
  24. Members have again questioned plans for the proposed roadway over the southern Garden of Remembrance seeking clarification if this was to be concrete, tarmac or gravel. Members and visitors will be aware that the apparently mistakenly constructed roadway which the Owners established in early 2008 already covers a substantial proportion of that Garden of Remembrance, a route which Bishop Julian suggested would be re-sited. Please see section 10 above, relating to the Nine points Document, which six years later, remains unanswered, despite the reassurance and information which those answers could provide.  We will again respectfully ask, the Owners, Mr and Mrs Gerard, and Mrs Angela Dunn and the Archdeacon for an answer and will include the responses received on the Website.

Letter to the Owner -2018

The nine points Document - questions

This was a simple request to the owners for clarification about the circumstances surrounding the construction of a roadway across part of the Cemetery, which was known to be consecrated land, without having prior faculty approval from the Bishop. Readers will note that the questions which would have provided many answers to our continuing and future  concerns were relatively straight forward and should have been easy for Mrs Dunn or Mr Gerard to answer. They have remained unanswered for nearly six years, but we are hopeful that the reminders recently sent to Mr Gerard, Mrs Dunn and the Diocese with now provide the clarification which the Friends have been waiting for.

The Bishop's consultation process   February 2024

Information regarding the latest application from the Archdeacon will be published on this separate page rather than in the News section, which will enable members and readers to have easy access to all the relevant  information to assist them in understanding the issues and responding to the consultation.

To read about the history of the cemetery and previous applications have a look at the cemetery history page.

The Importance of the Garden of Remembrance GOR

The Garden of Remembrance on the South side of the central path forms a very important part of the Cemetery's history, the current consultation and its future. First recorded in in 1977, we have a couple of early photos of the area taken from a position between the Lych gates. The first shows a senior member of the nursing staff, Bill Edwardson, checking the grave of James McLennan, one of the Booth Hall babies Behind you can see the newly dug portion of the Garden of Remembrance and in the distance the white gravestones in the C of E section. 


The second photo looks directly East towards the unsegregated QMMH Cemetery and in the foreground the gravestones of the C of E section on the right, those of the R,C. section on the left.

The recorded layout of the Garden of Remembrance GOR

The GOR was established in a South to North direction in 15 rows with each row contained 15 plots for the interment of ashes from East to West with a total of 225 individual plots in which the ashes of former residents and staff of the Hospital could be interred. Each plot was identified with a recorded  reference and we have a record of 211 people buried in those plots with dates of death and interment 

The Constructors move in.

In late December of 2017 without having discussed or obtained faculty (permission) from the Diocese of Blackburn, and contrary to commitments made to the Friends, contractors moved onto the Cemetery. They began excavating a roadway running south to north across the Cemetery and straight through the known Garden of Remembrance, which, like the consecrated status of the whole Cemetery, the owners said that they were unaware of.


The mysterious white tent.

Shortly after the construction work was halted on the 11th January 2018 when the Friends informed Angela Dunn, then of BORI Ltd, but now RPC Ltd, that the whole was consecrated ground, this mysterious white tent was photographed on land directly over the Booth Hall babies graves and immediately opposite the known Garden of Remembrance. Despite requests, we have never had any satisfactory explanation of what that tent was doing in that position 

 The GOR in the foreground

The damage to the GOR looking North, and the heavy machinery used, is evident from this photograph.

On top of the GOR

This photo is taken from a position immediately in front of the GOR looking to the North- East.

John Newton's grave

John Newton's grave 1980, is directly under this gravel base, which was intended to form the exit roadway. It's now completely hidden from view, despite the Owners having been aware of its location and the damage caused.

The Drone photo of the destruction and damage to the GOR 

This drone photo supplied by Mary O'Toole shows the full extent of the damage to the Garden of Remembrance, which is misrepresented as a smaller plot identified by a white taped-off area directly opposite the C of E  chapel on the left. The excavated roadway running top left to bottom right is evident as is the proportion of the GOR which is under that roadway, soil being placed on top of the roadway. Please note the substantial drainage work in the top left corner  and the mound of sand-coloured spoil which we believe is directly over the grave of John Newton

A closer view of the GOR

In this photo, the extent of the damage and destruction to the GOR is much clearer. The taped-off area which is of questionable size, interestingly suggests the area as being rectangular rather than square but the damage done and proportion of the area under the excavated roadway appears to be at least a third to a half. The Friends now believe that there is another Garden of Remembrance on the north side of the path, but in relation to the Garden of Remembrance (or the known GOR)  on the south side of the path, the Friends have tried for the past six years to get answers from the Owners and the Archdeacon, about what happened when, the without faculty, contractors working for the owners, excavated parts of the Garden of Remembrance, what they discovered and what action they took................... To date we have received no response 

The nine points Document

Readers need to understand the significance and importance of this document and the consistent failure of the Owners and the Archdeacon, for six years, to answer what most people might regard as simple questions. Having seen the destruction of the GOR you might question why those responsible for the "unintentional" destruction would not want to answer the questions and provide a suitable explanation, apology and plans for restitution, especially to the families of the deceased.

Letter to the Owners

A copy of the Nine Points Document  with this covering letter was sent to the Owners and the connected owner of the construction company which did the damage, none were ever acknowledged or answered. Readers will note that Mr Gerard who was the joint owner/director in 2018, is now with his wife, the sole owner of the Cemetery today. You will note the reference to Angela Dunn and her refusal to answer the questions in 2018. This is the same Angela Dunn who is actively involved with the Cemetery on behalf of Mr and Mrs Gerard and RPC today and has been consistently involved with the Cemetery since at least 2017. We believe that Mr Gerard and Angela Dunn are also currently joint directors of a separate company providing direct cremation services.

What is now proposed

This is the proposed plan for the development of a crematorium, showing the car parking and roadways which are intended to serve the crematorium. Even on this very limited plan, it is evident that a large car park with the remnants of the southern Garden of Remembrance, along with what we believe is the northern Garden of Remembrance, and the Booth Hall babies graves squeezed into the tiniest disrespectful space which the designer could allow. Please note, that under this latest proposal, all these car parking and roadway proposals are to be on consecrated land. The Church would be responsible for the concrete and tarmac which would be laid, permanently restricting access and respect to the deceased who are buried here.

The Archdeacon's proposal for the GOR

This coloured impression of the the Archdeacon's proposal shows the planned roadways and car-parking in blue, completely surrounding and isolating the southern GOR highlighted in green, the Booth Hall Babies in red dots, and the known graves of John Newton and George Eastwood, as well as the "lady in the Wicker basket, " whose grave may be further west than indicated. What we now believe to be the northern Garden of Remembrance would be completely submerged below the proposed northern car park and roadway. Readers will form their own opinions about the respect, sensitivity and appropriateness of this proposal.

 

The Archdeacon's plan

   This map shows the location of important graves which are highlighted in red. the known two gardens of Remembrance, in brown, the rows of Booth Hall babies graves, in black and the general area identified by Ian Furber as having been used as a GOR in the past.The potential impact of the proposed development should be obvious to those now promoting a plan which was presented to the Council five years ago, when some of this information, may not have been available to those producing the plan.

.

A polite reminder

The Bishop's Chaplain has contacted the Friends to politely ask those members and visitors who wish to contribute to the consultation process, to do so by letter rather than email, as requested earlier. Where people might have special difficulties responding by post, the Diocese will consider what alternative arrangements might be made for them. 

             A letter to the Bishop

                                            Reproduced with the kind permission of Ruth Fenton's family


    Consecration

 As there appears to be no explanation of the significance on consecration in the reports we have received, it might be useful for readers to see the words of Dr Henn, then Bishop of Burnley when he consecrated the whole Cemetery on Friday 7th June 1916 


  Drop in at the OGS and launch of the poster.

  Jean, David and Maria with her family, hosted a successful and well-attended drop-in session at the Old Grammar School in Whalley, explaining the current issues at the Cemetery and encouraging people to contribute to the Bishop's consultation process  by writing letters to him. The Keep the Faith poster was also launched.

  

Clarification from the Diocese

The Bishop's Chaplain has provided further clarification and advice for people and organisations who wish to take part in the consultation process. The Friends questions to the Diocese are in black print, The responses of the Bishop's Chaplain are in blue

9th February 2024

The missing appendices and evidence on which the Assistant Archdeacon apparently made his report to the Archdeacon in August 2023 - arrive

                                      7th February 2024 - Chaplain's letter

26th January 2024 - Friends Response

In response to the Bishop's request dated the 22nd December 2023 and within the deadline set by the Diocese, the Friends submitted a detailed 26-page response including evidence supporting our objection to the incomplete reports which had been provided in December and without any access to the detailed information on which we believe both the Archdeacon and the Assistant Archdeacon had decided to submit an application for partial deconsecration.

Click below to read the Friend's response.

22nd December 2023 

- The Bishops's letter

With this letter the Friends received a copy of the Archdeacon's letter dated 26th September 2023 - see below and a copy of the assistant Archdeacon's report dated 28th August 2023, which is not reproduced as none of the substantial documentation on which it was based was made available at this time- December 2023.

                                      26th September 2023 Archdeacon's Application


History Timeline

1911

  • Construction began on a new long-stay institution intended to accommodate 2220 men & women.

  • 3-acre cemetery included in plans 
1914
  • World War 1 starts

1915

  • Before the institution could open, whole site was transferred to the military & renamed "Queen Mary's Military Hospital" and would treat over 5000 military casualties

June 1916

  • Whole 3-acre cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Burnley and has remained a consecrated site ever since
  • The first burials in the Cemetery were military personnel

1921

  • Military leave the site, which reverts to its intended use as an institution

  • Ownership of 1 acre is transferred and becomes Queen Mary's Military Hospital Cemetery

  • Graves of the 33 buried military personnel are taken on and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

1939

  • Booth Hall Children Hospital evacuated from Manchester to Calderstones Hospital. 

  • 13 babies buried in the cemetery - more details on their own page

1939 to 1945 

  • Part of the Hospital was taken over by the military again and called Calderstones Emergency Hospital (there was no change to the name of the main part at this time) 

  • Soldiers who died at this time were also buried in the military section of the cemetery.

1921 - late 1990's

  • The hospital provides long-term accommodation & support to thousands of people

  • The cemetery was used for some of those who died with individual headstones to identify those buried

  • From the 1970's cremations followed by interment of ashes in the Garden of Remembrance gradually replaced burials

  • The cemetery was maintained to a high standard by NHS staff

2000

  • Both Calderstones Hospital and Brockhall Hospital Cemeteries were sold by the NHS

  • The intention, which was made known to potential purchasers was that both should continue to function as consecrated cemeteries

2001 - 2003

  • Access to the Calderstones Hospital cemetery site became limited and 660 gravestones were removed

  • The site changed ownership several times and went through periods of being well-maintained and neglected 

  • Although owned by a series of developers, none proceeded with developments possibly due to the consecrated status

2014-15

  • Various plans submitted for a Crematorium 

  • Ribble Valley Borough Council did not feel the presence of 1175 bodies was a "material factor" in approving plans, although they have been very clear that it is conditional on the other necessary licences and approvals being obtained

January 2018

  • Contractors dug and infilled the foundation of a roadway running north to south across the cemetery, straight through a significant portion of the Garden of Remembrance

  • Questions about the damage were asked about the damage in "the 9 points document", despite multiple requests over the years they remain unanswered

2018

  • Archdeacon made his first application for deconsecration to the Bishop of Blackburn

  • The application was withdrawn when photos were seen of the Garden of Remembrance

March 2019

  • Conditional planning permission was granted for the development of a crematorium

  • Roadways and parking areas would be over consecrated ground - including the Garden of Remembrance and graves of the Booth Hall Babies

  • The Friends (plus over 100 others) objected to the Archdeacon's second application for deconsecration to the Bishop of Blackburn

June 2019

The bishop found in favour of our arguments and upheld the consecrated status of the Cemetery

September 2023

  • Archdeacon's third application for deconsecration to the Bishop of Blackburn

22 December 2023

  • The Friends receive notification of the application

26 January 2024

  • The Friends made a detailed response to that incomplete application, with supportive evidence.